Taman Negara Batu Niah di Sarawak, Malaysia

November 2010:

Gua Niah adalah sebahagian dari kawasan Taman Negara Niah. Taman Negara ini pula hanya 3 km dari pekan Batu Niah, sebuah pekan kecil tidak jauh dari persimpangan jalanraya Miri – Bintulu. Batu Niah terletak hampir 110 km dari Bandaraya Miri menuju Bintulu.

Taman Negara Niah, walaupun saiznya kecil dari banyak taman-taman negara lain di Sarawak, menjadi tarikan pelancong tempatan dan luarnegara. Saya terjumpa seorang pelancong agak berumur dari Jerman semasa berkunjung ke sana baru-baru ini. Dari KL dia terbang ke Miri semata-mata untuk melawat Gua Niah ini.  Lepas tu dia terbang balik ke KL dan seterusnya pulang ke Jerman. Kalau orang Malaysia tak mai ke sini, apatah lagi orang Sarawak, apatahlagi orang Miri, memang teruk betul kitak tok. Satu lagi, niat kena betul.

Apa yang istimewa dengan Gua Niah di Batu Niah ini?

Antara Taman Negara terawal di Sarawak yang digazet pada tahun 1958. Ianya menjadi tempat kelahiran tamadun manusia di Asia Tenggara sejak 40000 tahun dulu. Gua inilah menjadi rumah dan tempat berehat manusia purba dahulu kala. Kesan-kesan peninggalan seperti rangka manusia, lukisan dinding, kawasan perkuburan mereka masih boleh dilihat di sini. Aktiviti arkeologi masih lagi aktif sehingga hari ini. Pencinta sejarah mesti datang ke sini.

Hari ini Gua Niah hanyalah rumah kepada kelawar dan burung pipit (swiflets). Orang tempatan mencari rezeki di sini dengan mengambil keluar tahi kelawar untuk dijual sebagai baja asli, dan juga sarang burung untuk dijadikan minuman berkhasiat yang dijual kepada orang-orang moden di bandat metroplitan. Mereka memanjat batang buluh yang tinggi tanpa sebarang alat keselamatan semata-mata untuk mencapai sarang-sarang burung yang terletak di siling gua. 

Terdapat sebuah muzium berdekatan jeti yang menceritakan sejarah Taman Negara Niah. Masuk adalah percuma.

Beberapa maklumat berguna:

1. Bertolak awal pagi. Perjalanan dari Bandaraya Miri mengambil masa 2 jam (110 kms). Jalan bertar kecuali beberapa bahagian sedang dibaiki. Tidak perlu pacuan 4 roda. Kereta boleh sampai rapat ke pejabat Taman Negara. Malam dan gelap datang awal  di dalam hutan, jadi pastikan anda keluar dari hutan awal sebaiknya sebelum pukul 3 atau 4 ptg.  Kalau anda berjalan pantas dan tidak berminat dengan detail, lawatan ke  Batu Niah dari Miri boleh siap dalam masa separuh hari sahaja.

2. Jarak perjalanan jalan kaki dari jeti (di seberang sungai) ke gua paling jauh (Painted Cave) lebih kurang 4.5 km. Ini bermaksud anda terpaksa berjalan kaki sejauh 9 km. Pakai kasut yang sesuai dan backpack yang ringan. Bawak air minuman dan makanan ringan dan snek. Terdapat satu gerai makanan/minuman di laluan menuju ke gua, tetapi harga tidak masuk akal — sebotol air minuman 500ml ialah RM3. Gerai-gerai kecil ini juga menjual cenderamata orang hulu.

3. Daftar dahulu di pejabat Taman Negara sebelum bergerak ke jeti untuk menaiki bot. Jarak pejabat ke jeti hanyalah 200m. Boat ride hanyalah 5 minit — menyeberangi Sungai Niah dari tebing sini ke tebing sana. Taman Negara ini juga mempunyai chalet, kafetaria dan bilik mesyuarat.  Bayaran masuk yang dikenakan ialah RM10 utk seorang dewasa. Pas masuk berkumpulan (group entry pass) untuk maksimum lima orang satu kumpulan (campuran kanak-kanak dan dewasa) boleh dibeli dengan hanya RM30. Pas sekali masuk untuk pelajar, warga emas dan OKU hanyalah RM5 setiap orang. Tanya di kaunter pendaftaran untuk maklumat terkini. Patuhi undang-undang taman negara seperti yang tercetak di belakang pas masuk dan juga papan-papan tanda di kawasan taman.

4.  Anda perlu membawa lampu suluh berkuasa tinggi, topi dan juga sarung tangan. Tanpa lampu suluh, mustahil untuk anda menyusuri laluan papan (plankwoods) di dalam Gua Besar (Great Cave)  yang gelap gelita lagi sunyi sepi. 

How to get there?

Batu Niah is about 100 kms to the west of Miri, about midway between Miri and Bintulu. Road condition are good, tarred all the way.  Private bus operator like Suria Bus Company is also available from Miri Pujut Corner bus terminal.

Iftaar di Miri, SARAWAK

20 August 2010 (Ramadan 8)

My first few days in Miri was quiet. I stayed at Mega Hotel, Jalan Merbau. With no tranport on my own, nothing much achieved and done. En route office from hotel everyday on the yellow and red Miri taxi, I managed to get a glimpse of the city landmarks between the hotel and my new office in Lutong, about 20 minutes drive under normal traffic.

Got to know people at office. Held the first meeting with staff — mainly ladies above forties, again, unfortunately. BUt I had no problem. Work is work and a trust which must discharged fully.

Back to the hotel, I had 2 options for buka puasa today — RM36 iftaar dinner at hotel chatterbox restaurant Level 1 or at a masjid right in front of the hotel. It is called Masjid Jamek Miri aka Masjid lama Miri, with kelas fardhu ain attached. The name is masjid but the status is surau and no Friday prayers performed here.  There is Masjid Attaqwa nearby, a much bigger masjid — district masjid rather. I chose option 2 for obvious reasons. BMI is going up faster if you eat at the hotel buffer line, so that is one reason. SOlat berjemaah Maghrib is another reason.

The food at masjid was simple.  I joined the queue with other people who came 20 minutes before iftaar time (6:38 pm in Miri, Sarawak). Today, the menu were mee goreng mamak and roti canai, kueh mueh and kurma. Hot teh-o, Nescafe and sirap were the beverages. So many people today. I only managed to get  a scoop of mee goreng mamak, a piece of kurma, and half of roti canai with no curry (finished already), and a cup of nescafe susu with a couple of refills. Got seated at one corner and quietly finished my food.

Met few people there. Pak Harun in late 50s was the executive chef in the masjid kitchen. He was from Penang but wife from Miri. He returned to Miri with family 8 months ago to take care of his father-in-law who has been sick. His mee goreng mamak was so authentic with generous serving of taugeh and cucur udang. Cannot be found anywhere else except in Miri and Balik Pulau.

Welcome to Miri, Sarawak, MALAYSIA

18 August 2010:

Early MH flight to Miri was an aging Boeing 747-400. Seated at 19A seat, I could see clearly stained metal patches on the wing, over the scratches window. The engine made some rattling noise when taking off but quietened down when cruising. The sky was cloudy but no rain. Most passengers felt asleep the entire journey over South China Sea, 33000 feet above at the speed of 800 km/h. After 2 hours 15 minutes I could see the shoreline with rivermouths full of muddy waters from the interior of Borneo. The plane was circling a couple times along the shoreline beneath which are at one side green plains and zig-zagged rivers and at the other side are muddy beaches. The pilot Jeff Azman went on air saying some problem at Miri Airport which did not concern us. He managed to land safely eventually. Airport terminal was a straight line building with 2 or 3 contact piers, just like Yangon International AIrport. Immigration was a breeze as I presented my intenational passport to the officer behind the counter, and she stamped the ‘visa’ on a blank page which allows me to stay up to 90 days on social visit to Sarawak.

Unlike Yangon arrival, nobody was waiting for me. This is my home country Malaysia and I was expected to know this country well. People speak my language and eat my foods, so whats the big deal. That what my new company thought, when I called them last week to tell them of my arrival date.

I went thru typical airport arrival procedures  — immigration checkpoint, collect baggages, custom checkpoint, greet&meet area. After custom checkpoint, I exited to the greet&meet area. At your left there were many car rental counters and one of them was a taxi counter. Bought a coupon here, only Rm20 for 15 minutes drive to Mega Hotel in downtown Miri.  Took and presented the coupon to the waiting taxi queueing for passengers outside the arrival hall. No taxi touts at this airport.

It took about 15 minutes from Miri Airport to Mega Hotel in the city center, along tree-lined boulevards.

Welcome to Miri, one of the youngest city in Malaysia.